By Daniel Cernero, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsApril 26, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, April 26, 2011 -- A collaboration of the Fort Hood Police, Killeen Independent School District and Child, Youth and School Services launched the "Band Together Against Bullying" program April 14, 2011, at Smith Middle School, here.
Police Captain Jonathan Caylor credited Officer Patricia Thomas, the Gang Resistance Education and Training instructor at Smith Middle School, and Sandra Forsythe, Smith Middle School's principal, for coming up with the idea once they identified the growing epidemic of bullying in schools.
"As educators and law enforcement, it's our responsibility to make sure that when we see trends like that start to develop, that we attack those and try to stop it, or at least educate people on how they can prevent it from happening," Caylor said.
"This is a program of prevention; a proactive program, so that we don't have to react," Forsythe added, stressing to students that Smith Middle School does not currently have a problem with bullying.
As part of the program, about 800 students were given "bully bands" to promote awareness and to encourage reporting. Caylor said that the ultimate goal of the program is to give the kids an extra voice and provide them with an extra person who will listen to them.
"They can call the number on the bully band and actually be able to report an incident anonymously or to give specific details about that information," he said. "And then we can provide that student with the appropriate resources to help them deal with the bullying."
Students can call or text the number on the band 24/7 to speak with a school-based law enforcement officer. If the student feels more comfortable reporting the incident anonymously, that is an option that they have.
"We just want as much information as possible," Caylor said. "The more information we get about bullying - how it's happening, who it's happening to, where it's happening at - the better. And the more comfortable that a person feels about sharing that information, the easier it is for us to be able to deal with it on a case-by-case basis."
Abbiegayle Sjostrom, a seventh-grader involved in the GREAT program last year said she didn't understand why people bully.
"My personal opinion on bullying is if you bully, how far does it get you in life'" she asked. "It may not put you down, but it does put the other person down. It doesn't make you cooler. It's not cool."
The program is being piloted at Smith Middle School with the possibility to later expand to other schools in the district.
"Middle school, that's the biggest transition phase," Caylor said. "You've got kids coming out of elementary school that have been on top for a year or two. And then they come into middle school, and all of the sudden, they're on the bottom."
Sjostrom agreed that middle school can be especially tough at the beginning.
"I think it will help them a lot, because middle school does get really hard once you come in," Sjostrom said. "There will be people who will judge you, (but her advice would be to) just blow it off. Blow it off," she repeated.
Thomas closed the assembly by emphasizing to students that by calling this number.
"You're not snitching," she said. "You're taking the power away from the bullies."